The embalmed heart of the Portuguese monarch who declared the independence of Brazil from Portugal 200 years ago was received with the military honors of a head of state in Brasilia on Tuesday at the start of bicentenary celebrations.
The heart, kept in formaldehyde in a glass jar inside a gold urn, arrived at the presidential palace in an open Rolls Royce flanked by a mounted color guard and was received by President Jair Bolsonaro with a gun salute. Air Force planes flew past.
Dom Pedro I's heart had been kept in a church in the Portuguese city of Porto since his death in Portugal in 1834. It is being loaned for three weeks to Brazil, where it will be put on display as part of independence anniversary celebrations.
Pedro declared Brazilian independence in 1822 and was crowned "emperor" of Brazil after his father King Joao VI returned to Portugal following the restoration of European monarchies after the defeat of Napoleon.
Though Pedro returned to Portugal nine years later, his declaration of independence on September 7, 1822 is acclaimed by Brazilian nationalists as the birth of their country.
"Two countries, united by history, linked by a heart. Two hundred years of independence. Ahead, an eternity in freedom. God, homeland, family!" Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said in a brief speech.
Critics of Bolsonaro, who is seeking re-election in October, said he is using the relic to boost his political movement around Independence Day, when he plans to hold election rallies.
"Bolsonaro has hijacked our national symbols, the colors of our flag, the shirt of our soccer team, and now the celebration of independence," historian Lilia Schwarcz said on the O Assunto podcast. "This is a morbid use of history," she said.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Lincoln Feast)